An Owner's Perspective: Aprilia Tuono Upgrades - Pt 2

Thai Long Ly
by Thai Long Ly

[Frequent MO readers will know that our friend, Thai Long Ly, is not a man of few words. Consequently, we should’ve known what we were getting into when he offered to write up his experience with Tuono modifications. Still, we never expected an 8,400-word opus. So, we decided to break the story into easier to digest pieces. Here is Part 2 for your reading enjoyment. If you missed it, catch up on the first part here, and check back later for the third and final part. –Ed.]

D.I.D ERV3 520 Chain ($224) Conversion

Performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐

520 chain conversion. A great way to lose weight without breaking the bank.

I aggressively rolled over 16k miles on the original 525 chain before tight spots developed and kinks started to get kind of, kinky. I’ve been a big fan of 520 conversions in the past, and I figured this would be a great time to switch over the Tuono. I’m glad I did. The drivetrain lost a modicum of weight (almost 2 lbs. – yes, please), and the bike feels like I fitted a lighter flywheel. The tangible feel of the motor is one that spools up quicker; evidenced by having to readjust my blipping and throttle timing for better rev matching and cleaner shifts across the board. Is this a necessary mod? Nah. But if you’re looking to eek out increased response from your bike (some claim 1-2 hp and torque), you might as well do it when your chain wears out. Paired in conjunction with other higher performance mods such as those in this article, incremental gains such as these become even more pronounced. For the record, I can milk anywhere from 15k to 17k miles out of these ERV3 chains. Any shortened lifespan compared to stock sizing is miniscule compared to the positive gains, in my book. I’ve used these beefy links on other bikes and couldn’t be happier with their performance. Well made, lightweight and long lasting. Plus, the gold is pretty sweet and matches my teeth.

D.I.D ERV3 Racing Chain

Supersprox Stealth 44T Rear Sprocket ($105)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐

Not really an upgrade… more like a sidestep. And I’m referring specifically to the tooth count. The stock gearing is 15/42. By going to a 44T rear sprocket, you’re simply gaining more snap off the line. A whole lotta snap. Like twenty fingers of snap. Think the Tuono likes to wheelie off the showroom floor? Try it now. I loved how the extra thrust felt all throughout the range, but eventually settled back on stock gearing due to the increased highway buzziness. Plus, the V4 1100 has plenty of grunt to pull stock gearing, so I reverted back to from whence I came. This is one of those mods that is completely dependent on where and how you ride. Gearing changes are an economical and easy way to transform the feel of whatever bike you’re riding, so don’t be afraid to play around and see what makes you happy. As for the aluminum-bodied sprocket itself, it’s definitely lighter than the OEM unit (I tried it in 525) and looks completely trick too. I’ve previously used these Supersprox with great success on other bikes and have logged tens of thousands of miles on them. They’re well made and bolt right up with nary a problem. That and having steel teeth makes it a long lasting solution, but without the OEM weight.

Supersprox USA Stealth Sprocket

Superlite RS7 Steel 42T Rear Sprocket ($48) –

Performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐
Stock gearing. Though made from steel, the lightweight design weighs less than the factory supplied unit. Maybe a bagel or two less. Toasted. (Toasted bagels feel lighter, right?) So… yeah. For the money, a total no brainer. Used in the racy 520 size, it’s pretty stellar. Also, purportedly lasts 3x longer than aluminum derived products. I’ve used them on previous bikes as well and have always had positive results from their service. Plus, they look badass as well.

Superlite RS7

If you spend a lot of time riding roads like this, you might want to consider a gearing change.

Superlite 520 Front Sprocket ($34)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐

Stock gearing. This drilled chromoly-steel unit is performance designed and stoutly made. And that’s about all I got. See, it’s hard to judge the performance of the sprocket itself, but being 520 (vs 525) means its contribution to performance is best judged as a system. Here, it definitely contributes to an overall improvement in response. That and it’s never spit a chain off, so yeah… two thumbs up!

Superlite Front Sprocket

Woodcraft Technologies 1.5” Riser Clip-ons ($229)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Woodcraft riser clip-ons give the bike an aggressive look and feel, without the need for a chiropractor.

Clip-ons on a Tuono? Why not just buy an RSV4? Because 1100cc’s, mutha fcka! See, the Tuono has a little more spank in the ass and pulls the hairs harder through the mids than the racier 1000cc version, and as a street bike, torque is king. I wanted a more aggressive body position without going to full blown 0-degree clip-ons. So, I bolted on a set of these fully adjustable Woodcrafts and headed to the canyons. And wow, did I gain some missing feel from the front end!

The bike was more communicative through the corners, especially high speed sweepers, and the extra confidence I had when leaned over was always greeted with a sinister laugh. Getting the bars’ geometry right was kind of a pain in my arse, but once I finally settled on the perfect combination of angle and width, the bike felt like a truly comfortable race bike. Plus, the aggressive look of the clip-ons made the bike look more like a bonafide streetfighter.

The quality of manufacturing was excellent and installation was simple, due to the two piece split clamp design. The 1.5” rise (shorter and taller options available) made it more comfortable than what a stock RSV4 could ever offer and the higher position was a perfect compromise between performance and pleasure.

My only issue was lack of lever clearance due to the Tuono’s front fairing design and I kept hitting my levers when going for full lock. This limited the bike’s turning radius, unless I angled the bars back into a narrow V when looking from above. Too narrow, in fact. This made turning difficult and I’d jam my inside wrists/palms on the tank at full lock. While flipping a U-turn on a tight windy road I ended up dropping the bike as a result of the limited steering lock. Lame. In that very moment, they sucked.

I won’t blame the Woodcrafts for this (Tuono fairing, remember?) as they do feel amazing and are completely without fault. The way they transmit road feedback to the hands is arguably the best I’ve felt with aftermarket clip-ons. With this said, I’ve gone back to a traditional bar and though I’ve given up some front end feel, the added leverage has me singing and dancing through super tight turns and switchbacks as originally intended. Which leads me to…

Woodcraft 1.5″ Riser Clip-ons

Lower and leaner, as in you’ll be leaning over lower with riser clip-ons from Woodcraft.

Rizoma MA0011 Bars ($82)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The stock OEM bar is great. No real complaints. I just wanted something with a touch more sweep and a bit lower. Especially just coming off the 1.5” Woodcraft clip-ons. So, I found the Rizoma bar in anodized gold… which looks trick and really ties the room together.

The bar feels a bit livelier than the stock unit, which by contrast dampens more vibration for a more muted feel through the grips. But it’s not a deal breaker by any stretch and we’re talking a difference of hairs, not logs. The bars are an inch or so longer than stock, and I initially thought of cutting them down. But, my inherent laziness ensued and I just left them be. And I like ’em. The extra leverage feels great, and I can’t be bothered. Plus, I can’t find my Dremel. The alignment marks are genius and allow you to precisely center the bar when installing. Very thoughtful. Bear in mind, the inner diameter of the bar is 14mm, so you’ll need special bar ends or adapters to work seamlessly.

Rizoma Bars

Rizoma bars and Kiwav mirrors. Not necessary, but why the hell not?

KiWav Viper II Mirrors ($99)

Performance ⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐⭐

These Taiwanese aftermarket mirrors are well built and easy to install and adjust. They offer a nice quality glass and the shape is sleek and modern. There are numerous styles in their catalog to choose from, and most are offered in multiple colors. I certainly think they look better than the stock units, though I’m not convinced they work any better. There’s infinite adjustability due to the ball and socket connection on the back of the housing as well as multiple angle options from the knurled stalk connectors.

For track duty, a simple allen key is all you need for their speedy removal. They do, however, vibrate at elevated freeway speeds and render everything behind me disappointingly blurry. Though the blurriness did get worse when I installed the Rizoma bars, so I won’t pin it all on the mirrors. As long as I can make out the basic shape of something approaching, I’ll be OK.

Kiwav Viper II’s. Bugs are an additional fee. Plus, they’re more fun when you collect your own.

I could personally use perhaps an extra inch or so in stalk length. Same for these mirrors. (Cough.) I had a manufacturing issue with one of them early on, and the distributor promptly replaced the set for me, no questions asked. They were fast and courteous, and for that reason alone, I’ll always look to Kiwav for aftermarket glass.

KiWav Viper Mirrors

Oxford Heaterz Premium Heated Grips ($90)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐

Oxford heated grips. These things are just MONEY. Get a set and thank me later.

Don’t laugh, it does get cold here! We Southern Californians are a hardy bunch, riding through the brutal winters whilst fragile East Coasters retreat and hide, seeking refuge for months on end. How can you even call yourselves bikers? Ha! I may kid, but these grips aren’t joking as they get super toasty in a matter of minutes. I’ve never had to turn ’em up past 50% even when the weather drops into the mid to upper 30s. Anything colder than that, and I’m in a car. But for what it’s worth, these things are a necessity for year round riding, and I cannot imagine not having heated grips on any bike ever again.

The Oxfords are intelligently designed and the installation couldn’t be simpler. The LED lit controller unit mounts just about anywhere using the supplied mounting bracket and the evenly distributed heat is better than many OEM units I’ve experienced. The grips themselves are hard-ish rubber and I have no reason to think they won’t last several winters. The feel is solid and they offer plenty of… well… grip.

Replacement sleeves are available for when you finally wear them down, too. I bought the “adventure” style, which has a more textured surface than than the smoother and narrower “sports” model. I thought I had made a mistake at first, as the raised texture felt strange, even under a gloved hand. However, I’ve since grown accustomed to their feel and have become quite fond of them. I rate these a “must have” for any serious biker.

Oxford Heaterz

Ebay “Rizoma” LED Turn Signals ($26 set of 4)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Chinese Rizoma rip offs. They’re not fancy but neither is the price tag. They simply work.

They’re LEDs. How difficult can this be? They blink when provoked, and they’re fairly bright. Not super bright, but bright enough for government work. Plus, they were cheap as hell. If I break ‘em, I’ll buy another set. They look just like the high end, high dollar set, without the price. While they may not be as bright as the real deal Rizomas during the day (when backlit by the sun), drivers are too busy Facetwatting, Snapbooking and Textchatting to notice, anyway. So, don’t judge my saving ways. The money I retained went to several tanks of gas. Many several. (No Link Available – I can’t seem to find them anymore)

LED 3600LM Xenon Bulbs ($20 each)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

These H7 LED bulbs are intensely bright and were easy to install. They are a presidential approved purer white (6000K) than the halogen bulbs that came stock, and they toss a nice wide pattern for improved visibility. I love how they look and, being quite easily amused, how they light up when I turn the key. What more can I ask? They have heat sinks around the circumference of the base as well as a tiny cooling fan to keep the heat in check. I bought them through Ali Express for roughly $20 each. They’re sold under various brand names, but I think they’re all pretty much the same (I don’t know this for a fact. I’m just making shit up like they do in D.C.). I’ve used several sets of these in other bikes over the past few years and have only had one blow out, most likely due to an abruptly sharp front wheel landing after a throttled outburst of hooliganistic joy.

LED Xenon Bulbs

MotoboxUSA License Plate Bracket ($139)

Performance N/A / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Motobox tail tidy displays my personalized tag with grace and a touch of class.

Honey, does this stinger make my ass look fat? Honestly… yes. A fender eliminator seems to be at the top of the shopping list for every fashion conscious biker immediately after buying a new bike. And for good reason, as the dog awful factory issued monstrosities are a national embarrassment. Conversely, this well executed Motobox tail tidy is uniquely gorgeous and allows the Tuono’s sleek rear lines to proudly shine. Like Spanx for your bike. Installation was fairly quick, fit and finish superb and the tiny plate illumination LED keeps law enforcement happy. Plus, Josh Alvarez (Proprietor) is a stand-up guy (I’ve never seen him sit) and fellow Aprilia owner.

Motobox USA Plate Bracket

Mandlebar Racing Radiator/Oil Cooler Guards ($42)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Mandlebar Racing radiator/oil cooler covers are cheap insurance against expensive repairs.

These handmade, custom fit guards are excellent in execution and the protection they offer from rocks and debris is priceless. Installation is straight ahead and custom painted graphics are available from this one man shop out of England. There’s forum chatter about whether or not guards in general trap more heat or limit air flow to the radiator, thus making your bike run hotter. That may be the case with certain products on the market, but I’ve not noticed my bike running any warmer than normal. Remember, I ride my bike all throughout SoCal’s sweaty summers where the dry air resembles gliding through an oven and gets to be 110+ degrees at worst. I’ve rarely seen my bike’s temperature gauge hit 240 degrees, but never has she overheated and shut off.

I think the benefits (not being stranded by a radiator puncture) far outweigh the cons (being stranded by a radiator puncture), so I will continue to use and recommend these perforated metal sheets. Essentially, they are cheap insurance from costly radiator damage that could leave you broken down somewhere when you least desire. Usually off the beaten path on a deserted mountain road near sundown with no cell reception whatsoever. Oh, and the price includes an equally protective oil cooler guard. Sweet. I’ll give this 5 stars because my radiator has never suffered a puncture with it mounted.

Racing Radiator Guards

Bonamici Racing Engine Covers ($339)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐

Bonamici Racing engine covers are lightweight, yet strong with an efficiently muscular design.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and give these beefy aluminum guards a 4 star Performance rating. That leaves 1 star as wiggle room. I have no doubts that they’d work as intended if tested, seeing as they’re thickly milled aluminum with excellent fit and finish. They’re lightweight and installing them was simple. I think they look great, although the stator side cover’s anodized finish has started to fade from a deep black to an oddly tinged brown. The clutch side cover is still a dark black, and it’s odd that one would fade while the other looks like new. Because of the fading, I’ll ding the Aesthetics rating two stars from a perfect 5 to a 3. Hopefully, I’ll never test them out, and they’ll just live peacefully on my bike like happy barnacles clinging to a ship.

Bonamici Covers

Lightech Axle sliders ($74)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐

Lightech axle sliders are a happy hour favorite. Paired with a nice amber stout makes for a great snack.

Again, I’m gonna have to assume that these trick looking axle sliders will do their jobs when pressed into service. I don’t want to challenge them with a crash and will let others chime in on their effectiveness. So, if you have any user feedback, leave it below. They’re some of the prettiest looking solutions offered, are super lightweight, and are available in various colors. I couldn’t get one of them to properly secure to the fork’s axle rod, so I ended up rigging it with duct tape and spit. I’m actually not joking. It’s holding for now and hasn’t flown off despite the bike’s repeated excursions deep into 6th gear’s rev limiter. Price is for a set of 4.

Lightech Axle Sliders

R&G Frame Skidders ($130)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐

R&G frame sliders. Excellent with a crisp IPA for a refreshing afternoon hang with friends.

Guess what? Yep. Gonna take another flier on the performance of these things. The thick and oblong plastic design is unexpectedly light in weight, and seeing as they don’t protrude out like the common puck, I think the chances of them digging into the ground and flipping your bike (during a crash – not while riding) are 0.009487 percent. Pucks may arguably offer better impact protection due to their increased heft, size and thickness, but these seem like a decent compromise between solid protection and streamlined looks. Plus, pucks tend to catch my knees and frankly, would look like flaccid ass on such a sexy bike. Whatever… I hope to never test them.

R&G Skidders

Driven Rear Axle Block Sliders ($103)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐

Driven Axle Block Sliders. With a light bleu cheese dressing and sweet potato fries. Delish!

These things are bomber. Much thicker and beefier than the Lightech sliders I have mounted to the forks. These rear axle sliders are made from lightweight aluminum (and what looks like Delrin) and replace your stock OEM axle blocks. I have no doubt they’ll hold up to severe punishment based solely on how burly they are. Like having a mini Chuck Norris guarding your swingarm.

I wish I could bolt a set to my feet so I’d stop re-breaking my damn toes when banging into unlit furniture in the middle of the night. I like that the “pucks” are replaceable in the event you grind them down to nubs, though if you’re constantly shopping for replacements, perhaps you should seek other hobbies.

Driven Sliders

Driven SS Bar End Weights ($49)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Driven SS Bar Ends. Available in many colors to match your personality.

These cone shaped bar end weights look pretty trick and do a fair job of damping handlebar vibrations. They use a rubber grommet for fitment and pressure from expansion keeps them in place. I’ve dropped my bike once (see Woodcraft 1.5” risers above) with them installed and aside from a miniscule bit of rash, they looked fine . They’re not as heavy as the OEM units and therefore aren’t as damp. But they look better. Available in a handful of colors, they’ll match up with your bike (or eyeshadow) easily. If you use them with Rizoma bars, make sure you order the adapter grommets so they’ll fit the smaller inner diameter.

Driven SS Bar Weights

XP Rearsets ($105)

Performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Aesthetics ⭐⭐⭐

XP rearsets. Cheap, effective and fully adjustable. Great for budget racers or cheap bastards like me.

These Chinese made Ebay specials are surprisingly sweet. Considering they were only $100, I have no right to complain. They’re thick enough for continued abuse and the tolerances in manufacturing are tight. No filing or drilling required and everything lined up perfectly upon installation. Made from 7075-T6 CNC milled aluminum, these fully adjustable rearsets are exactly what this budget conscious biker needed to get my foot position oh so right for aggressive riding.

The bearings feel smooth, and the units are far better in person than I expected. No… they’re not ultra trick, ultra thick, premium priced rearsets. But I don’t care. Shifting is crisp and nothing has broken or given me pause. Just be sure to undo every bolt before installing and thread lock everything thoroughly as you slap them on – trust me on this. (Sidebar: the Tuono rides surprisingly well stuck in 4th if you were ever to lose your shifter bar, in case you were wondering.) If you go to their website, you’ll actually see the two owners on the landing page – I’ll assume they’re the owners, as all owners tend to look the same. Knowing that they’re actual bikers gives me a little extra confidence that they probably manufactured these with a keener eye on quality, if you know what I mean. If you’re a track junkie, they’re cheap enough to have an extra set or two in the trunk in case of a crash.

XP Rearsets

[Tune in next week as we wrap things up with part 3 of Thai’s adventures in Tuono modification! – Ed.]

Thai Long Ly
Thai Long Ly

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4 of 6 comments
  • Mad4TheCrest Mad4TheCrest on Jul 26, 2018

    Was just re-reading about your chain and sprocket upgrades, and this may be a dumb question, but, do these changes have any impact on the function of rider aids, especially traction control? I guess a better question might be 'are the rider aids dependent on certain stock setups like chain/sprocket/tire size, or are they adaptable?' Any cautions from your experience?

    • TL2Bass TL2Bass on Jul 26, 2018

      As far as I know, the only parameter the electronics are dependent on is tire size - easily adjusted via "calibration mode" with every tire swap. Everything else is good to go and unaffected by chain, sprocket, wheelbase changes, etc...

      The only adjustment I noticed was to my blipping. I had to be quicker and more deliberate as a result of the lighter weight or my timing would be way off (too slow).

      Go for it... there are no negatives I can think of!

  • 996superhawk996 996superhawk996 on Jul 30, 2018

    Thai, a very informative and funny 2 parter so far. Looking forward to Part 3. What's your day job?

    • TL2Bass TL2Bass on Aug 02, 2018

      Thanks for the encouragement, Superhawk. I'm a music producer/audio engineer. Which is a fancy way of saying I'm basically unemployed. Though I prefer "intermittently retired".

      Seriously, you'll find me in my recording studio working on records, films or TV shows when I'm not out riding in the mountains. Every so often, I'll break out a thought or two and MO inexplicably publishes it. :)